Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School
Queens NY 11691
All classes taught by a lead teacher and teaching assistant
Insufficient room to grow until anticipated move takes place
MARCH 2010 UPDATE: The New York Daily News reports that since Peninsula Prep's move from MS 53 in September of 2008, classes are being held in "two trailers" located in a lot across the street from where construction is underway for the school's new building. The school and its students have no cafeteria, gymnasium, or science labs, with the Daily News explaining, "Its 'gym' is a room inside a trailer with bars on the windows; the space doubles as an auditorium and cafeteria."The school has an agreement with the city Department of Education to fund the construction of the new building, but there is no target date for it to open. The Daily News quotes sources as saying that the school will probably not open before 2014. Additionally, the Daily News notes, the DOE Progress Reports for Peninsula Prep have been underwhelming, with the school receiving an "F" in 2007 and a "C" in both 2008 and 2009 despite the fact that "90% of Peninsula's students showed 'proficiency' in math and 65% in English" for the 2008-2009 school year.
On July 1, 2009, Ericka K. Wala became principal of Peninsula Preparatory Academy Charter School, replacing former principal Judith Taylor.
MAY 2006 REVIEW:From its cozy ground-floor wing inside MS 53, the Peninsula Preparatory Academy, a charter school, offers Far Rockaway families a vibrant alternative to local struggling public schools. Progressive teaching techniques, anchored in daily morning meetings, a classics-based "core knowledge" curriculum, collaborative teaching, small-group learning, and active leadership by Principal Judith Tyler create a warm environment where teachers and students feel challenged and encouraged.
It's a big change, according to Parent-Teacher Organization president Dawn Foster, whose son is in 2nd grade. The school opened in fall 2004, but by the end of the school year, all the lead teachers had left, as had the principal. Tyler, who came on board in August 2005, hired a new deck of state-certified lead teachers along with teaching assistants on their way to certification. As of our visit, the teachers alternated subject areas according to their personal preferences and strengths. Additionally, a full-time special education teacher provided services outside the regular classroom to students who need them.
The school day is long, beginning with breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m. Every day starts with morning meeting"it gives the kids a chance to predict and plan for the day," says Tylerand proceeds through double or triple blocks of reading and writing instruction. Because Peninsula Prep shares a lunchroom with the middle school, lunch starts at an early 10:30 a.m., but children get a snack later in the day. Afternoons include daily math lessons in Everyday Math (a program in use in most of the city's public elementary schools), with social studies, science, and physical education offered variously during the week. The school also uses a curriculum, developed by the Victory Schools company, based on month-long units that integrate writing, social studies, and arts instruction into study of ancient cultures, the human body, and countries of the world. "They're the glue," says Tyler, that binds all of the class-work into a coherent whole.
Tyler, a 15-year veteran of city public education and former assistant principal of the behemoth PS 138 in Brooklyn, says that heading a charter school instead of a large, public school means less bureaucracy and a more responsive administration. "It releases me from the red tape," she says. When teachers need resources, she can provide them without having to seek numerous approvals. Her aim is to "create a culture where children feel empowered" to make their own choices and decisions, by fostering a responsive classroom and open communication throughout the school.
All Peninsula Prep classes include mainstream and special-needs students. Classroom management poses challenges to some of Tyler's young teachers, all of whom are in their first years in the profession. During our visit, a few children acted out in class, disrupting lessons and frustrating their teacher; others sat, passive and seemingly disengaged, while their teacher explained the next lesson.
But in the main, teaching is energetic, as exemplified by the 3rd grade teacher who had her class giggling while she danced. Some teachers challenged their students to think beyond the page, asking them to discuss why authors write or to predict the end of a story. During our visit, children were eager to share their writing with us, but they couldn't always read the lessons and word lists they had copied from the blackboard. Artwork and class projects, from relief maps of China to a giant oak-tag mummy decorated with hieroglyphics, filled the school's small, crowded hallway, giving the impression of a busy, happy place.
In addition to taking routine weekly tests, children at Peninsula Prep are required to take the same yearly standardized tests as their non-charter peers in city public schools. Third-graders participate in Princeton Review test preparation, and all students have regular spelling, math, and classroom tests. Homework, assigned as a weekly packet in kindergarten through 2nd grade, and nightly in 3rd grade, is expected to take about 20-30 minutes for the younger children and "a good hour," by grade 3, according to Tyler.
Peninsula Prep expects to move to its own facility for the 2007-08 academic year, a welcome change given the school's anticipated growth and the lack of sufficient space in the MS 53 building.
Students come from Far Rockaway and parts of nearby Queens. The Department of Education provides school buses for Rockaway students, but because reaching Queens involves traveling through a few blocks of Nassau County, it is not allowed to offer buses for Queens residents, who instead hire private bus companies to transport their children.
There is no after-school program.
Special education: Every class has students with special needs. Special education teacher Denise Thornton says "we need a full-time special ed provider and resource room teacher" to better support kids with learning challenges. The school hopes to add special education support as part of its ongoing growth.
Admissions: Children apply through a lottery which is held every April. Priority is given to District 27 residents.Preference is given to siblings of enrolled students. In 2006, there were 57 applications for 50 kindergarten seats, with wait-lists for all grades and scant openings anticipated. (Helen Zelon, May 2006)